This post might lose me some friends, it might land me on some prayer chains, and it might garner me a few unsolicited debates. Let me respond to these hypothetical situations right now, so readers aren’t left hanging. Scenario 1) I’ll be your friend no matter what you believe. Scenario 2) Thank you! I can always use prayer and encouragement. Scenario 3) Forgive me if I don’t want to argue, which I don’t. If you would like to read a good explanation as to why I’m not engaging in debates, please read my friend Marilee’s essay: http://www.thecontemplativemommy.com/?p=809
While sitting in my office this afternoon, I overheard a student discussion about gay marriage and same-sex relationships. In the hallway of a moderately socially conservative university, these students spoke candidly on their perceptions of homosexuality in American culture. The whole time I kept my silence, not wanting to impose anything as an instructor, but I had a running inner-commentary throughout the discussion–a commentary of mostly “Yes!” and “I’m so glad you said that.” I still don’t find the classroom or my position as an instructor to be an appropriate venue for me to assert most of my political views, so, please, think of this as a personal statement, from one 20-Something to another, and to anyone else willing to listen.
I think it’s time I clear the air, time I make a declaration.
The start of each year makes me feel nostalgic. And since I grew up listening to country music, I have found myself tapping back into the twangy tunes of my youth. The same thing happened last January, so I am sensing a definite pattern. This morning as I reviewed today’s reading, Miranda Lambert sang “A Heart Like Mine” through the wonderful world of free Pandora Radio. The first two lines immediately got me to thinking:
I ain’t the kind you take home to mama
I ain’t the kind to wear no ring
I have always considered myself to be the “marrying kind.” You know, the kind of person whose relationships thrive on commitment and who, well, get married and married for life. If/when I do get married, of course I want it to be for life and I’m willing to work hard for that to happen. But I’m starting to wonder if I am in fact, at this moment, “the kind you take home to mama” or, more importantly, the kind to wear a wedding ring.
There are countless articles and books out for people of my parents’ generation that seek to help readers understand why so few of their children are getting married and why they prefer to co-habitate with a partner or avoid commitment altogether instead. One of the main reasons some are forgoing legal marriage is that they see the institution as a sham. With the divorce rate up to approximately 50%, I can’t blame them exactly. I like to think, though, that each relationship/marriage is what we make it, and the odds are defiable, the institution negotiable.
You might be thinking, “Woa, what happened to the cynic we have all come to know and love?” Odds defiable? Institution negotiable?
Don’t worry. I’m not done yet.
To be straightforward, I am not currently the marrying kind. Not because of any particular “dating style” I’ve chosen over another, and I don’t see myself co-habitating in the future. For one thing, I like having my own life as long as I am single. In the words of pop star Pink, “Shawty can pay her own rent.” Neither does the divorce rate, etc. have me convinced all marriages are bound for hell in a hand-basket. In fact, after watching a production of Jason Robert Brown’s two-person musical The Last Five Years, I was more convinced than ever that I could marry and that marriage can be worth fighting for. If you’ve seen the show you might be rightly surprised, just as I was. Marriage, as we know it, may, however, be a sham.
On a national level, legal marriage is a relationship limited only to heterosexual couples. To qualify for a marriage license a couple has to prove that they could have viable offspring, meaning that they are not too closely related so as to procreate children who might have disabilities or developmental problems.*
Again, I don’t want a debate. Believe what you will and stand by it. The world is big enough for all of us. I will be skeptical of the institution of marriage as long as, with a passed blood test, I could legally marry someone who turns out to be an abusive, drug-trafficking low-life as long as he’s male, while my gay friends’ desire to marry is met by “need not apply” signs in most states. Any relationship has the possibility to be dysfunctional and even abusive. But when I think of how my gay friends who are out and in relationships have chosen to be honest about their love when legislation, predominant culture, and history have threatened their safety and reputations, I can’t help but think that maybe people whose relationships are put to the test like this deserve the legal right to marry more than anyone else–straight or gay.
This 20-something thinks marriage is worth saving. Someday I hope the institution and its individual manifestations will be based on a couple’s love, respect, and commitment to each other’s well-being, as so many thriving marriages are.
Note: I recognize the difference between concepts of religious and legal marriage. I am not arguing one way or another about churches officiating same-sex marriage, as each religious community has different criteria for marriage and each must interpret/address scriptural writings on this topic. Nonetheless, the chorus of “A Heart Like Mine” comes to mind:
‘Cause I heard Jesus, He drank wine
And I bet we’d get along just fine
He could calm a storm and heal the blind
And I bet He’d understand a heart like mine
*Thoughts on procreation are sure to follow at some point.